There is often confusion surrounding the differences between migration agents and immigration lawyers, and whether you should seek assistance from one or the other.
Despite some overlap in terms of the work that migration agents and immigration lawyers do, there are also a couple of key differences, which may form part of your decision-making process in determining the best kind of representation to seek for your matter.
Migration agents and immigration lawyers are all registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (‘MARA’), and must abide by the standards that MARA sets in the form of the Code of Conduct.
However, immigration lawyers are also held to the rigorous professional standards set out by their state’s Solicitors’ Conduct Rules, as they not only have to renew their MARA registration on an annual basis, but also their legal practising certificate.
Although migration agents must undertake Continuing Professional Development (‘CPD’) to qualify for annual re-registration, immigration lawyers must complete this alongside additional CPD as required by their state’s Legal Services Board.
On top of their ongoing education, immigration lawyers also possess a law degree, and have therefore studied law for a minimum of 3 years. In contrast, migration agents either possess a Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law and Practice – which is a 6 month course, or a Graduate Diploma in Australian Migration Law and Practice – which is a 12 month course.
What agents cannot do
You will need a lawyer to represent you should you need to take your case to Federal Court level.
Legal professional privilege also extends to communication between lawyers and their clients, meaning that they cannot be revealed unless extenuating circumstances apply. In contrast, there are limited protections available to clients of migration agents, who must provide all information they have on file regarding their clients when it is requested of them by a higher authority.
Immigration lawyers also have the option of becoming accredited specialists, meaning that they are recognised as being at the peak of the profession. Becoming an accredited specialist requires many years of experience in a particular field, as well as additional CPD and the successful completion of an examination, and the accreditation must be renewed each year.
In order to ensure a successful outcome, it is important that your choice of representative’s level of experience and expertise align with what you are trying to achieve.
Our staff consists of both lawyers and agents, all of whom are highly capable of providing you with advice regarding a range of visa matters. In addition, our administrative staff are all law school graduates, meaning that they have also cultivated the analytical skills that are critical to being able to offer the best possible service to our clients.